Pike County supervisors finally settled on headquarters for the public defenders office Monday, but not without rancor.
The board voted 4-1 to make repairs to the old board of supervisors building on South Cherry Street, Magnolia, and let the public defenders use it.
Supervisor Tazwell Bowsky opposed, saying the board didn’t follow proper protocol.
Supervisor Robert Accardo said he toured the building last week with architect Steve Cox, assistant public defender Toby Welch, investigator Lance Falvey, supervisor Lee Fortenberry and county administrator Tami Dangerfield.
“I think we were all in agreement that the space will work for them,” Accardo said.
He cited a “punch list” of needed repairs, including testing for mold and removal if necessary.
Board president Sam Hall said he’d like a cost estimate before approving the move. He cited a letter from lead public defender Paul Luckett citing the need for carpet, painting, carpentry and a new kitchen sink.
“I think this can be done in-house with county employees that we have,” Accardo responded.
Accardo also noted the decision about headquarters rests with supervisors, not the public defenders.
Bowsky criticized Accardo for setting up the building tour on his own and for not contacting Luckett ahead of time.
“Protocol, that’s what that’s called,” Bowsky said.
Accardo responded that he has talked with Luckett and that he has the right as supervisor to inspect county buildings and meet with employees.
Board attorney Wayne Dowdy said a supervisor can go into any county building but cannot instruct employees about their jobs.
Accardo said the dilemma over public defender headquarters is longstanding and he took the initiative to do something about it.
Bowsky cited Luckett’s letter as expressing “serious reservations” about the South Cherry Street building. And Bowsky said he had planned to use one of the offices in the building for himself.
Their argument went on for a while and became heated at times.
Dangerfield said she can have a cost estimate ready at the next board meeting except for mold testing and possible kitchen renovation.
She also pointed out that the board voted in an earlier meeting to let the public defenders use the old Mississippi Forestry Commission office, but they declined.
Accardo offered a motion to rescind the Forestry Commission choice, to assign the public defenders to the South Cherry Street building and to make necessary repairs. Supervisor Jake Gazzo seconded the motion, which passed 4-1.